Opponents of marriage equality in Washington State filed more than 200,000 signatures for a referendum on Wednesday, officially putting the new law on hold and all but guaranteeing a vote on the issue this fall.
The Associated Press reports that Preserve Marriage Washington submitted the signatures only days before the law passed by the legislature in February was due to take effect. No same-sex couples have been married in the state, a regional prize in the national campaign to win marriage equality.
Over the next week, state officials will determine the validity of the signatures and whether the measure, known as Referendum 74, will qualify for the ballot in November. That prospect appears likely, where marriage equality opponents have far exceeded the cushion of 150,000 signatures recommended by the Washington secretary of state.
The campaign for marriage equality in Washington was planned with the near certainty of a referendum in mind. Voters upheld the state’s expanded domestic partnership law in 2009, and a poll by Strategies 360 last week showed that 54% of voters think same-sex couples should be able legally marry. The poll did not ask how respondents would vote on the prospective referendum.
“For us, there’s no news here,” said Zach Zilk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, which is running the Approve 74 campaign to retain the marriage equality law. “We always knew our opponents would qualify for the ballot, and we know they paid hired canvassers to boost their count. They can spin it however they want, but they clearly wouldn’t have paid out-of-pocket if they thought they could do it on their own.”
“Whatever the ﬁnal certiﬁed number is, it doesn’t matter,” he continued. “This campaign is up and running and we know by independent poll numbers released last week that the overwhelming majority of Washingtonians do not want to overturn this law of fundamental fairness for all families.”
The Washington referendum will be one of four states facing ballot measures related to marriage equality this fall. Voters in Maryland are expected to weigh in on that state’s new marriage law, a campaign is underway to reverse the repeal in Maine, and Minnesota voters will be considering a constitutional ban.
State senator Ed Murray, the gay Seattle lawmaker who worked with Governor Christine Gregoire to pass the bill, said that news of the signature submission was “disappointing,” but he does “not believe their effort will succeed.”
“I am confident that Washington voters will come together this November to reject the politics of division by voting to approve Referendum 74, thus upholding our marriage equality law,” he said. “Together, we will win this vote in November, proving that we are one state and one people, and that we want all families to be treated fairly and equally."